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Proceedings Paper

UCSD/FRA non-contact ultrasonic guided-wave system for rail inspection: an update
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Paper Abstract

The University of California at San Diego (UCSD), under a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Office of Research and Development (R&D) grant, is developing a system for high-speed and non-contact rail defect detection. A prototype has been designed and field tested with the support of Volpe National Transportation Systems Center and ENSCO, Inc. The goal of this project is to develop a rail defect detection system that provides (a) better defect detection reliability (including internal transverse head defects under shelling and vertical split head defects), and (b) higher inspection speed than achievable by current rail inspection systems. This effort is also in direct response to Safety Recommendations issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) following the disastrous train derailments at Superior, WI in 1992 and Oneida, NY in 2007 among others. The UCSD prototype uses non-contact ultrasonic probing of the rail head (laser and air-coupled), ultrasonic guided waves, and a proprietary real-time statistical analysis algorithm that maximizes the sensitivity to defects while minimizing false positives. The current design allows potential inspection speeds up to 40 mph, although all field tests have been conducted up to 15 mph so far. This paper summarizes (a) the latest technology development test conducted at the rail defect farm of Herzog, Inc. in St Joseph, MO in June 2010, and (b) the completion of the new Rail Defect Farm facility at the UCSD Camp Elliott Field Station with partial in-kind donations from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway.

Paper Details

Date Published: 14 April 2011
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 7981, Sensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems 2011, 798113 (14 April 2011); doi: 10.1117/12.880238
Show Author Affiliations
Stefano Coccia, Univ. of California, San Diego (United States)
Robert Phillips, Univ. of California, San Diego (United States)
Claudio Nucera, Univ. of California, San Diego (United States)
Ivan Bartoli, Drexel Univ. (United States)
Salvatore Salamone, Univ. at Buffalo (United States)
Francesco Lanza di Scalea, Univ. of California, San Diego (United States)
Mahmood Fateh, Federal Railroad Administration (United States)
Gary Carr, Federal Railroad Administration (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7981:
Sensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems 2011
Masayoshi Tomizuka, Editor(s)

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